CHESTERFIELD, MO. – The Regis Jesuit High School hockey team learned a valuable life lesson en route to what would have been its fourth state title in 10 years.
Nothing comes easy, no matter the credentials possessed. Sometimes nothing is all that comes.
Undefeated and ranked No. 1 entering the Colorado state playoffs, the Raiders endured a 5-1 drubbing by Monarch in the semifinals.
“It was devastating,” senior forward Connor Brennan said. “I remember just sitting in the locker room not touching any of my equipment for like 30 minutes, knowing this was my last shot at a state championship with the brothers on my team.”
Fortunately for Brennan and his teammates, they also experienced the second chances sometimes given, and they made the most of the opportunity. The Raiders got past Santa Margarita (California) with a 3-1 victory Monday to win the Toyota-USA Hockey High School Pure Division National Championship.
Despite losing in the semifinals of its state tournament, Regis advanced to the national tournament by virtue of all of its players attending the same school. The pure division bracket is comprised of teams that only draw from one student body.
The combined division allows the squads to pull in players from multiple schools. Cherry Creek of Colorado, about a 17-minute drive from Regis, won both the state and the combined division national championships. It can take players from throughout the school district to form its team.
Regis coach Dan Woodley appreciated the chance to share the national stage with their neighbors, especially on the heels of the disappointment of the state playoffs.
“It was absolutely critical because the lost opportunity and faltering just destroyed us,” he said. “Without having anything to come back on, we would have just buried that pain deep down.
“So this was a very cleansing experience for us. The fear of having that pain again might have been why our guys played so well.”
Brennan had 12 points to lead Regis, ranking second in the division field. His six goals tied for most with three other players, and his six assists were tied for fourth most.
He said it took a few days following the March 5 state tournament loss for his team to turn its focus on the national tournament. The Raiders stayed away from the ice for a three-day weekend before returning on a Monday to prepare for their chance to win a second national title in the tournament’s six-year history. They also won in 2012.
The nearly two-week layoff provided some perspective for the players.
“We just really came together,” Brennan said. “We faced adversity losing the semifinal game but really gelled back together even stronger than before, and I think that’s the reason we came away with the championship.”
Regis opened the national tournament with a 3-1 win over North Broward Prep (Florida) on Thursday in the first game of pool play. The Raiders followed with a 4-1 victory over Jesuit Prep (Texas) on Friday and a 2-1 loss to Santa Margarita on Saturday to finish second in their pool.
In the quarterfinals, Regis got past St. Louis-based Christian Brothers College 4-3 before earning a 5-1 win over St. Rita (Illinois) in the semifinals on Sunday.
The national title run helped ease the disappointment of not fulfilling expectations at the state level.
“It was awesome,” said junior center Jack Kilkenny, who finished with 11 points, including five goals. “It was great because we didn’t end up winning state, and seeing the devastation on the seniors’ faces, knowing that that was their last Colorado high school game, killed us.
“To come out where and get this win for them was a great feeling.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.